Space Tourism

 

 

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon. Perhaps inspired by this major event and earlier space flights, science fiction writers in the late 1960s and 1970s wrote a countless number of stories about people traveling to space for a vacation.  Many people at that time believed that families in the early 21st century would routinely take trips to the moon for sightseeing, and popular movies and TV shows fueled this belief. Take the example of 2001: A Space Odyssey which was released in 1968. This movie had a famous scene that showed businessmen traveling through space.

 

In the 1980s space travel for ordinary people was not as widespread as writers and artists imagined in the 1960s. However, in the 1980s civilian expeditions into space had begun. This is illustrated by United States’ decision to send several politicians into space to help them better understand the activities of NASA – America’s space agency. Christa McAuliffe, a school teacher, was scheduled to travel on the space shuttle and teach her class from space.  After she was tragically killed in a shuttle accident, NASA delayed sending civilians into space for a long time.  Because they were traveling to space for a specific purpose, these people were not really “space tourists” but they were civilians who flew to space.

 

By the late 1990s space tourism for an exclusive set of people became a reality. A commercial space company called MirCorp was having problems and it desperately needed money. The company therefore decided to sell tickets for space flights.  It was an American businessman named Dennis Tito who bought the first ticket from MirCorp, and in April 2001 he flew to the International Space Station.  Despite strong resistance from NASA, Tito stayed at the International Space Station for seven days. After Tito’s space trip, two more fortunate people bought tickets and also visited the space station.  More trips were planned but these were cancelled or delayed after the space shuttle Columbia had an accident in 2003 while returning to Earth and all the astronauts aboard were killed.

 

In 2006, space tourism resumed and Russia’s space agency again sold tickets to those who wanted to travel to space.  Despite the resumption of space tourism, Russia’s space agency announced in 2011 that it would not carry space tourists again until 2013.  Although many people dream of becoming a space tourist, ticket prices are currently very expensive (around 20 to 25 million dollars US), so taking their family on vacation to the moon may have to wait for now.



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